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So this is the most recent batch of Ardbeg TEN that I have picked up. When I opened it with @Victor in March my very first impression was, “this is a good batch.” Then I tried @Victor’s batch from L10 which blew this one away in power and depth. Since that experience I have slowly drained this bottle . . . and I examined it against a number of other whiskies at different times (3 different Corry’s, Uigeadails, Laphroaig’s, and other peaty beasts). Finally, I put it up against 4 other batches of Ardbeg TEN. I have scored it on 4 occasions: 91, 92, 90, and 91. So I have to come down on the side of saying that this is a very good batch. It doesn't blow your socks off . . . but it is good.
Nose: Creamiest batch of the night. It has some low tones, and it has some high tones. The peat is down low, coal in the middle with the lemon up high. It is like a peat coal cake (with some dark cacao) with a lemon frosting. The peat is the base, then the coal, and finally the lemon rests on top. There is also some wood right in the middle with the coal. It doesn’t have quite the low or the high tones of the L11, but it does have some interesting mild oil, dirt, mineral, and peat notes. This isn’t as dark or deep as the L11 or the L10, but this does have some interesting pine needles, and “green” smells happening. Probably the smoothest nose of the batches tonight. This is far from a complex Ardbeg nose, but this is spot on for a standard Ardbeg 10yo in my book.
Taste: Very sweet compared to the L9. But in actually this is medium sweet. Loads of peat, citrus, and wood. Maybe some pine cones? Light peat, some salt, wood, barley . . . and something that reminds me of a light Speysider (a Glen-something). A little bit of smoke but not mind blowing.
Finish: Big peat blast (very liquorishy), now a low rumble that is chest warming. This is all about peat, and wood fire. Tons of that wood, peat coal, and liquorish. Far bigger, darker with more minerality than the L9 or the L11. This has that diesel oil and coal thing going on. This might have the biggest finish of the night if not for that L10. Definitely the woodiest finish of the night . . . but in a good way.
Complexity, Balance: Lots going on here. Not as big as the L10 or as complex as the L11, but still very interesting and enjoyable for a 10 year old.
Aesthetic experience: Love this bottle. It is just fantastic. 46% is the minimum that it needs to be. It is also NCF and I highly doubt there is ANY color in these bottles. Average color for a TEN.
Conclusion: This isn’t as big and powerful as the L10 152. Nor is it as dark and complex as the L11 194. However, it has something to it that is really hard to place. Much like the standard Laphroaig 10yo this batch can drink bigger then it actually is. I enjoy it quite a bit. And so, while the score in only a point or two below other batches I enjoy far more . . . this is still one I am tempted to buy more of even thought I am not sure why. I reach for it over other whiskies that I score much higher. For that reason I consistently score it in the low 90’s. But in all honesty I would expect most people to score this batch in the high 80’s.